Hills and Valleys

Hills and Valleys

This past new year I set several goals for myself as I’ve done many times before. It was a little different for me this time because I’d been fighting sciatica and didn’t really feel like I was going to be able to meet the challenges I’d set. However, with a few visits to the doctor for adjustments, I was all set. My spring goals were small, run a few 5Ks. Then I wanted to hike some mountains this summer and run a half marathon this fall and lose 10 pounds. I think I’ve done that but it’s funny when you start taking care of yourself the numbers aren’t as important. I also wanted to do an obstacle course, which has not yet happened, but hopefully, before long I’ll check that off as well.

Ever since I started setting goals for challenges I’ve kind of felt like it was “my” thing. If I decided I wanted to do something it was all about the discipline of training then just making a plan to go out and do it.

I had to learn a new lesson.

Everything was going as planned for hiking. I’d done lots of running and walking. I picked a date and a location. We met up with friends (cousins actually) and found a great camping spot. We did all the usual preparations, some of us more than others. I’m a bit of an over planner, but that keeps me from feeling anxious. We camped more primitively than I’ve ever camped before. We didn’t have running water. There was a vault toilet and bear boxes were provided. No hanging our food, I haven’t gotten that primitive just yet. The night before our hike Luke’s cousin raised some concerns about the weather. I was concerned too, but we decided to just go for it anyway. Surely the sky would clear and we’d summit the two 14ers we’d planned to summit.

Grays and Torreys Peaks are unique in that they are both 14ers, with class 1 and 2 trails connected by a saddle. You can easily hike to the top of both in one day. Provided the weather cooperates.

The road to the trailhead is seriously the most treacherous part of the entire trail. It’s only about a mile long, maybe two miles but took us a good 30-45 minutes to travel. It’s very rocky and full of holes. It was after 5:00 am by the time we were on the trail and the rain was starting. Not a good sign. We put on our ponchos and were all silently debating how long we were going to keep this up. The clouds literally rolled in around us. Though a beautiful sight, not what you want to see when you are about to head a few thousand feet up right were storms are produced. The rain continued and so did we.

We were just breaking the tree line, which in this case was just a vegetation line as there hadn’t been a tree for some time when we noticed some hikers ahead of us turning around. One guy had a helmet hanging from his pack. He was going to do a little rock climbing to reach a different summit. We decided if the weather was too much for the guy with a helmet, it was too much for us. We talked to another couple who gave a report of seeing lightning. Sadly, we headed back down. As we walked we considered our options and decided that breakfast at the Mountain Lyon in Silverthorne would hold the answers. After eating one of the most delicious breakfasts available in Colorado, or probably anywhere, we decided that we’d give the hike a go the next day.

As the day progressed so did a burning in my throat, congestion that felt like it was in my chest but surely was just from my head. I was coughing. Walking in the rain for a few hours had aggravated a cold that I had felt coming on. Sleeping outside that night probably hadn’t helped either. By the next morning, I was coughing and uncomfortable but was determined to make it up to those beautiful summits. I felt so bad for the group we were with. They’re a good 15 years younger than us (at least.) I was so slow. It would have driven me crazy to walk with someone so slow. I just couldn’t breathe. Combine the altitude with my congestion and it was just not good. But I walked. We walked.

We summitted both mountains that afternoon and let me tell you, it’s breathtaking.

I couldn’t even talk that afternoon. No temperature but I felt terrible. I haven’t been that sick with a cold in a long time.

 

On to my next challenge. Running a half-marathon in 2 hours. I didn’t really intend on that to be my goal. It was just what everyone else was doing…it was a peer pressure goal. I joined a running group at my gym and it was really fun to have people to run with. It was fun to get some training and try to run faster. I’d never ran so fast in my life. I mean, I’m not winning an Olympic medal or anything. That’s why they call it a “personal record.” Running is very personal and you can totally just compete against your own best. I was beating my best each time I ran.

Then my foot started to hurt. It would hurt so bad I couldn’t walk.  I know that sounds ridiculous, and a lot of people asked why I didn’t stop running. I just couldn’t stop. I was finally beating my times…it was important to me. So I ran. Two weeks before the race I ran 11 miles at exactly the pace that would bring me into the finish line at 2 hours. I was so excited. But also very worried. My foot hurt so bad I could barely stand that day. After it would warm up I could walk in some shoes…but I felt like that might be the end of training for me. I thought I’d have to tell my team “maybe next time guys.” I’d worked so hard. I was ready for the race. I got a few short runs in and then I ran a slow 8 the next weekend. I was feeling totally defeated and in a whole lot of pain. (I did go to my local running store where I got a special sock to sleep in to help this issue as well as a foot roller. I talked to a wonderful chiropractor who told me to roll my calves. All of those remedies help for a little while. But not long. It was continuing to get worse each time I ran.)

That’s when it happened. During the 8 mile run that I did at a very slow pace, I heard a song I’ve heard before. It’s called “Hills and Valleys.” Take a look at these lyrics.

I’ve walked among the shadows

You wiped my tears away

And I’ve felt the pain of heartbreak

And I’ve seen the brighter days

And I’ve prayed prayers to heaven from my lowest place

And I have held the blessings

God, you give and take away

No matter what I have, Your grace is enough

No matter where I am, I’m standing in Your love

On the mountains, I will bow my life

To the one who set me there

In the valley, I will lift my eyes to the one who sees me there

When I’m standing on the mountain aft, didn’t get there on my own

When I’m walking through the valley end, no I am not alone!

You’re God of the hills and valleys!

Hills and Valleys!

God of the hills and valleys

And I am not alone!

I’ve watched my dreams get broken

In you I hope again!

No matter what I know

Know I’m safe inside Your hand

On the mountains, I will bow my life

To the one who set me there

In the valley, I will lift my eyes to the one who sees me there

When I’m standing on the mountain aft, didn’t get there on my own

When I’m walking through the valley end, no I am not alone!

You’re God of the hills and valleys!

Hills and Valleys!

God of the hills and valleys

And I am not alone!

Father, you give and take away

Every joy and every pain

Through it all you will remain

Over it all!

Father, you give and take away

Every joy and every pain

Through it all you will remain

Over it all!

On the mountains, I will bow my life

To the one who set me there (to the one who set me there)

In the valley, I will lift my eyes to the one who sees me there

When I’m standing on the mountain aft, didn’t get there on my own

When I’m walking through the valley end, no I am not alone!

You’re God of the hills and valleys!

Hills and Valleys!

God of the hills and valleys

And I am not alone!

You’re God of the hills and valleys!

Hills and Valleys!

God of the hills and valleys

And I am not alone!

And I will choose to say “Blessed be Your name, yeah, yeah”

And I am not alone

I know it’s supposed to be metaphorical. I realize the hills are supposed to be like triumphs in our lives and the valleys like low places where we felt defeated. But, when I heard this song I realized it was a real and living God who put me on actual mountain tops. I was struggling that day and it wasn’t just my own resolve, it wasn’t my training, it was the fact that I have a creator that is good who formed mountains for me to climb, who made oxygen for me to breath and knows my every heartbeat that took me to the top of those peaks. When I was literally in the valley that is Kansas running in terrible conditions with a foot that I wasn’t sure was going to make the miles, He saw me there. He heard my verbal cry and took me to the finish line.

This is my favorite picture from the race. Luke took this one just as I saw him and the girls standing in the rain holding signs. This is just after I thought I’d give up.
This is almost to the finish line. Somewhere along this tenth of a mile I could hear the announcer cheering in the 2-hour pace team. I felt completely defeated. I always look like I’m dying when I’m running.
Shortly after this picture was taken I started crying. Luke was right there and I said: “I didn’t do it.”

 

So that takes me to the end of the story. The story of the race. Actually, the first day we hiked and the day of the race have a lot in common, mainly rain and cold. Those are less than ideal conditions for running, let alone trying to run a half marathon and PR (or whole marathon for some people, not me.) At about mile 8, my foot really started to hurt. The 2-hour pace group passed me. My running partners were even ahead of the pace group. I was feeling pretty bummed. I was completely soaked, as was everyone. My new shoes…the only ones I can walk in, were soaked. I was cold. At least I’d remembered waterproof mascara and my adorable husband was fighting traffic and rain to be at every possible intersection to cheer me on. He’d hold up his coffee as if to say “cheers,” or take a picture. I’m telling you, get a man that will wake up at the crack of dawn on a Sunday, stand in the rain with an elementary school kid splashing in puddles and watch you do something totally unnecessary while telling you you’re amazing and you’ll be married for the rest of your life. But I digress, mile 8 and that feeling I get in my heel that makes me think I’m repeatedly stepping on a nail was kicking in. I was done. I wanted to just tell the nearest aid station that I couldn’t make it. Then I came up to an intersection to find my family holding signs that read “you’re too legit to quit” and “Carrie runs this prairie.” It was all the inspiration I needed to carry on for the next 5 miles.

I didn’t make it in under 2 hours and I think there’s a reason for that, outside of the rain, cold and foot pain. (turns out I have plantar fasciitis and I can’t run for 6 weeks!) I did make a personal record of 02:02:43 that day and came in 9th for my age bracket. However, before the race I told myself, if I make it in my goal time this will be my last half marathon, but if I don’t make it I’ll run another. God’s not done with me yet. I’m excited to find out what He’ll be teaching me then.

I told my friend about the song and how I felt like God had spoken to me through it. It sounded a little weird to vocalize and I never want to be hyper-spiritual. She said that was now part of my testimony. My testimony is my story, and that’s what I do here, I tell my stories. The story I have to tell today, is that He certainly is God of the Hills and Valleys. I’m so thankful that I am not alone.

 

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